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Helminths of urban rats in developed countries: a systematic review to identify research gaps

Although black (Rattus rattus) and brown (Rattus norvegicus) rats are among the most widespread synanthropic wild rodents, there is a surprising scarcity of knowledge about their ecology in the urban ecosystem. In particular, relatively few studies have investigated their helminth species diversity in such habitat. We followed the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis) guideline to synthesize the existing published literature regarding the helminth fauna of urban rats in developed countries (North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan).


We aimed at describing the species diversity and richness of urban rat helminths, the species prevalence and associations, the methods of investigation, the pathological changes observed in the hosts, the risk factors of infection and the public health significance of rat-borne helminthiases. Twenty-three scientific papers published between 1946 and 2019 were reviewed, half of them were conducted in Europe. Twenty-five helminth species and eight genera were described from the liver, digestive tract, lungs and muscles of urban rats. The most commonly reported parasite was Calodium hepaticum. Prevalence and risk factors of helminth infection in urban rats varied greatly between studies. Observed pathological findings in the rat host were generally minor, except for C. hepaticum. Several rat helminths can parasitize humans and are therefore of public health significance. The lack of references to identification keys and the rare use of molecular tools for species confirmation represent the main limitation of these studies. Knowledge gap on this topic and the needs for future research are discussed.


D. Gliga, B. Pisanu, C. Walzer, A. Desvars-Larrive, Helminths of urban rats in developed countries: a systematic review to identify research gaps, Parasitology Research 119 (2020) 2383-2397

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